Weekend Reading: oh yeah, this is a thing I used to do

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

That should probably say published on “some” Saturday mornings, since the implication as written is that it’s published on every Saturday morning… which hasn’t been the case since, oh, last December or so. I do like having somewhere to stick my random links to interesting things (without a facebook feed, what else is a girl supposed to do?) and so I am planning to start posting these again. Probably not every week, unless I surprise myself — but certainly some Saturdays.

1. The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan (Wired.com)

I was on an epic walk, 620 miles alone across Japan, over six weeks. I set out on this walk not knowing what I was getting into. I didn’t know that I’d meet this guy or see his amazing toilet. But I did and, because I’m human, I wanted to share that serendipity. Look! A man who is almost 70 and has run a cafe almost every day since 1984 has built a toilet for the simple purpose of bedazzling his customers! But sharing today means using social platforms like Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. And once you open those apps and stare into the maw of an algorithmically curated timeline, you are pulled far, far away from the music and the toilet or wherever it is you may be at that moment.

I have configured servers, written code, built web pages, helped design products used by millions of people. I am firmly in the camp that believes technology is generally bending the world in a positive direction. Yet, for me, Twitter foments neurosis, Facebook sadness, Google News a sense of foreboding. Instagram turns me covetous. All of them make me want to do it—whatever “it” may be—for the likes, the comments. I can’t help but feel that I am the worst version of myself, being performative on a very short, very depressing timeline. A timeline of seconds.

2. Finnish artists creates life-like crocheted people (mnn.com)

Not only does she make life-size crocheted people, you can see them with their real-life models. It’s amazing and weird. Here is the artist’s website.

3. The Dressing Rooms of Broadway: 33 Photos Over Nearly a Century (New York Times)

More often, though, dressing rooms are other things: nurseries, clubhouses, makeshift trysting spots. Conference centers for hash-outs with agitated authors. Publicity offices with stacks of photos that still need signing. Impromptu rehearsal studios. Kennels. Napatoriums for two-show days. Ramen kitchens, botánicas, graveyards for humidifiers.

More pertinently, they are assembly lines for reinvention. Even if actors arrive solo, sometimes hours before curtain, they aren’t alone for long. Here come the wig handler, the dresser, the sound technician with his condom-wrapped microphone packs. Knock, knock: It’s the director’s assistant with a performance note. The co-star complaining about last night’s stepped-on joke.

But at some point, dressing rooms are places of silent, solitary work. Except for the Elphabas of “Wicked,” who need mechanical green-spraying, most actors put on their own makeup; it’s part of a tradition going back to the ancients. A designer will usually have provided the template; many’s the facial diagram I’ve seen perched on the mirror showing exactly how the transformation should happen.

4. ‘The stories are a bit sinister’: the secrets of London’s hidden rivers revealed (The Guardian)

Although the bank of the Thames is now well south of its Roman line, the Walbrook still dribbles onto the foreshore from a pipe just upstream of Cannon Street station, past a yard that was a dock until the 1950s and where London’s rubbish is still craned out onto barges for disposal in landfill.

Mudlarks, the licensed scavengers on the tidal shore, still find medieval and earlier pieces every week. As we stood on the slimy waterstairs – a favoured spot for a quiet drink, evidenced by the litter of bottles and cans – Sumnall produced from her bag a Roman dress pin, and the base of an expensive imported Samian ware jar, which she picked up on the shore a few days earlier. So much material is being collected from a spot the mudlarks nickname “the Roman hole” that she suspects it is being washed out of a well that became a rubbish dump more than 1,500 years ago.

5. X is for… (The Public Domain Review)

In 1895, the physicist Wilhelm Röntgen discovered x-rays, a groundbreaking moment in medical history that would lead to myriad improvements to people’s health. Perhaps one overlooked benefit though was in relation to mental health, specifically of those tasked with making alphabet books. What did they do before X-rays? Xylophones, which have also been a popular choice through the twentieth century to today, are mysteriously absent in older works. Perhaps explained by the fact that, although around for millennia, the instrument didn’t gain popularity in the West (with the name of “xylophone”) until the early twentieth century. So to what solutions did our industrious publishers turn?